Model and body positive champion Iskra Lawrence has been known to post before-and-after pics in an effort to show her fans that thinner doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. (The 26-year-old suffered from disordered eating earlier in her career, and at one point was three dress sizes smaller than she is today.) But last weekend, Lawrence posted something a little different: an "after" selfie with no "before" selfie. In the space on the left, there is text that reads, “I am so much more than a ‘before’ photo. #BoycottTheBefore.”
In a post on Instagram, she explained why the "before" pictures that people in recovery sometimes share on social media (often from when they were at their lowest weight) can potentially be harmful to others. "For those in early recovery especially, our eating disorders can tempt us to compare numbers or sizes, or even make us question, 'Am I sick enough to receive help? Because that person seems to need it more than me,'" she writes.
#Repost @soworthsaving ・・・ #BoycottTheBefore I have an article that will be published on the sister website of @neda soon that discusses this in more detail. I'll share it when it's posted but wanted to share some now. ((I don't intend to shame anyone who has shared their recovery photos. I'd like to offer different perspectives because it's important to open the conversation rather than assume everyone is on board. I hope those who disagree can speak kindly and non-judgmentally in return.)) For those in early recovery especially, our eating disorders can tempt us to compare numbers or sizes, or even make us question, "Am I sick enough to receive help? Because that person seems to need it more than me". That can be very harmful when it comes to this. These photos also solely show physical growth. It is a huge misconception still that those who have eating disorders must be physically underweight to be considered struggling. It reinforces a misconception that you can see who is struggling. The truth is: we aren't telling the whole story through these photos, even with our captions. There are people in recovery who don't feel comfortable sharing their photos at all. And there are also people in recovery who simply cannot relate to having any shocking physical changes. Overall, though those of us who can share these photos are praised for sharing them and may be creating short term change, we are feeding into the misconceptions of eating disorders and sadly not making room to create real, long term change. So let’s fight back. I encourage you to responsibly share your recovery story this NEDA awareness week if you feel comfortable doing so. I also encourage you to factor in other people – those in recovery and those whom we are trying to educate. And I encourage you to use the photo pictured on the left as your “before” photo if you want to support this project. We are so much more than comparison photos. We are strong, resilient warriors and we will go against the grain and continue to fight to be seen and heard – even if that means not receiving instant validation. Like recovery, change takes time; it is a journey but it is possible.
What's more, the "before" photo feeds the myth that you have to be underweight to suffer from an eating disorder. "It reinforces a misconception that you can see who is struggling," Lexie adds.
As is so often the case with images on social media, these "before" pics don't tell the whole story, she points out.
In her own post, Lawrence writes that in the past, she felt compelled to share "before" photos to show how far she has come in her journey. “I myself have felt the pressure to post before and after pics to validate that I too suffered… but that's not right. We-do not need to prove that we struggled, we do not need to feel like anyone may have struggled more or less because maybe [their] before and after photos aren't as ‘dramatic’.”
She praises the movement for encouraging us to honor the way we are right now. "[T]here is no perfect recovery & everyones is completely unique,” she says.
But that said, Lawrence wants to be crystal clear she doesn't intend to shame anyone for documenting their own transformation with photos: "[T]his is NOT me telling you NOT to post before and afters or diminishing the achievements and accomplishments of those who are proud of their journeys. I love seeing people celebrating how far they've come and totally get why (myself included) choose to post before and afters."